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The Buried Life Summary

"The Buried Life" by Matthew Arnold, written in 1852, expresses a deep, indescribable yearning to understand another humans' soul as deeply as his own. "The Buried Life" is a poem divided into 7 stanzas, each rising in intensity and fervor as Arnold expresses his growing desire and passion to understand his lover.

The beginnings of the poem are innocent enough, as he describes the love and laughter between himself and his beloved, their jokes, and mocking words. However, it is instantly tainted with sadness, almost a feeling of forlorn or remorse that is not explicitly described until later in the poem. Arnold speaks fondly of the depth of joy he receives from being with his beloved, but there is more that he yearns for.

The following stanza expands on this a little bit—wondering if even love is too weak to open up hearts and souls to one another for deep understanding. He is deeply curious about the inner machinations of his beloved's mind and soul, but he can't reach in and know it as intimately as he would like. He inquires later on if his lover feels the same way, if they are as curious and broken-hearted about not being able to probe his own soul as he is theirs.

Finally, like waves crashing, in the fifth stanza, he opens up and laments being unable to read his love's soul. He speaks about the chaos of the city streets, and how there are so many people who are wandering around with their own "buried lives," individual thoughts and emotions, motivations and desires that he can't dig into. He only wishes to share in someone else's buried life and to divulge his own. From this, he finally reasons that the only time this is possible is when he is united with a lover, who allows him to stare deep into their soul, and then he can see his buried life and understand his soul's journey.